QL2 Dance – Saying So Much Without A Word

By Anthony Plevey

QL2 Dance’s 2023 Quantum Leap project Communicate will present three new works by Australian and international choreographers, which pivot on this active statement to engage with the human imperative to interact and convey meaning.

Communicate invites audiences, as young QL2 dancer/performer Akira Byrne puts it, “…to witness our way of communicating, which may resonate and speak to you in new ways”.

This level of ownership is essential to the development process that QL2 Artistic Director Ruth Osborne, her team of national and international choreographers, and the youth dance artists have committed to in developing this new work.

“Our young dance artists own it as much as the choreographers, as much as the directors, the designer; everyone’s got a piece of it,” Osbourne says. “How do we communicate? What levels of communication do we have? What are we missing?”

“We generalise about how young people communicate,” Osbourne continues. “It’s all through phones, messaging Apps and so on. But what I’m finding from the young people we work with is they don’t see it that way. Really, there’s a lot of young people out there who really want human contact.”

“The three pieces in Communicate focus more on what there is, other than the digital communication. What else is important in how we communicate?”

The works for Communicate are choreographed by Alice Lee (Dance North Townsville), Kyall Shanks (Melbourne), and Lordfai Navinda Pachimsawat (Bangkok Dance Academy, Thailand), and bring to QL2 and Canberra a diversity of cultural influences, youth dance experience and, importantly, new ways of thinking about dance development processes.

“QL2 has had a long connection with Bangkok Dance Academy,” Osbourne explains. “And Lordfai, who also studied in Australia, is a product of that long-term exchange. She will be bringing nine dancers with her to perform with ours.”

And on the topic of communication…

“Whilst Zoom has been a key development tool for the choreographers working across such distances, we’ve actually delved into the difference between how we communicate today and that of earlier times”.

“We started with the Australian and Thai dancers writing to each other like they were a pen pal, sending them off, and then developing solos about what they’ve written, encouraging them to consider the deeper communication that happens when you take that time.”

Dance is a language that is felt in the body and soul, communicating emotions and connections differently, raw and unspoken.

The three works of Communicate utilise the primal and sophisticated elements through which dance communicates; gesture and contact, movement within—through the body and between bodies—creating positive and negative space. The work is in solo, duos, and groups to open up the importance of listening, and the impact of not listening.

Communicate unfolds the complexity of messaging between ‘speaker’ and ‘listener’. The pitfalls of information overload, miscommunication, and misunderstanding through cultural differences, socio-economic backgrounds, and gender. How easy it is to read things the wrong way or hear things the wrong way or take things the wrong way. How, whether intentional or not, when we communicate, embedded in the what, why, and how of things ‘said’, we say more than what we want – what we feel, who we are.

Dance development processes have a longer arc than the direct communication of performance, which means dance speaks in different ways for the audience and performer. These works come about through discussion and collaboration between the choreographers and the artistic directors, the choreographers, and the composer. Then, of course, with the choreographers and the dancers.

“I’ve worked with our dancers to fully explore communication in the broadest terms, because in dance it’s everything,” Osbourne reveals. “Not necessarily to put all those things into the work but to bring in the skills and the awareness of what’s actually happening to them during.” 

“It’s all so these young artists understand the intention of the work, what they and the choreographers are wanting to communicate, as well as what it looks like from an audience perspective.”

Beyond these conversations between dancer, director/choreographer, and audience, Osbourne intimates the internal conversation within the artist.

“Being fit, building skills so your body can be the tool that you need to explore intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically is important for our young dancers,” Osbourne states. “However, the work that goes into it is much deeper than that. It is more than hearing. There is a physical listening; a listening with your body.

“Collaboration underpins these young dancers’ commitment to the work, making them feel totally engaged. This is crucial to creatively finding ways of connecting, beyond words, and articulating the essence of Communicate in the language of dance.”

QL2 Dance is making the call to Communicate and inviting you to respond.

Which you can do when they perform at The Playhouse at Canberra Theatre on 18 – 20 May. Tickets are $38 + bf via the venue.

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